Sooo…….Haven’t written one of these for a while. It’s honestly not my fault. It’s just that cinema is offering me various things that are so thoroughly unappetizing or so straightforwardly brilliant that there hasn’t been very much to say. That and I was writing about other things…..and busy….yes, busy….
But, seems like I write about essentially every marvel movie. So, let’s come out of retirement for one more job.
1) Never has a movie been so sold on the studio (“….that brought you the Avengers”) and the name brand (“Marvel”) and never has a movie needed the association less. Let’s face it, Thor and Cap sequels are waaaay more interesting to us because we know they hang out as the Avengers. In fact, the only beef you can have with those films is that they only have some Avengers in them. This movie was fully sold to us on the Marvel bandwagon and had perhaps the largest and longest “Marvel” ident of any of the films so far as if pleading for legitimacy. It didn’t need to. The presence of Thanos and talk of infinity stones very much felt like an afterthought, much less the reason we went to actually watch the film. With no link to Marvel whatsoever, this still would have been a fun and memorable movie with strong visuals and a good sense of humour.
2) So, what’s most to like about this film? Primarily it’s because we meet someone who wants to be a hero. Someone who gives themselves a name and a costume and wants to do heroic things and save people. Call it the Spiderman Principle – trying to be good is hard but the hero tries to do it anyway. It’s that element that is so fundamental to the comic superhero genre that it’s frighteningly easy to forget about it: we aspire to be heroes but heroes aspire to higher values too that are often beyond them. Bruce Wayne always has his parents to live up to but it’s a little bit of a dud open that when we meet him in Batman Begins, he’s already a kung fu master seeking to join a secret society. That’s not much of a story arc, though the trilogy does go on to explore whether or not Batman should publically be a heroic public symbol or a mysterious ass kicker, there’s never a discussion of what he himself aspires to be – his mission is practically innate and unquestionable. Let’s not even try to discuss DC’s latest hero attempts.
It’s something Marvel occasionally forgets too, but has done well enough on so far. The First Avenger didn’t break the mould but it delivered on someone who wanted to take up a challenge and went on a mission that wasn’t always easy to define. One of the best parts of Iron Man 3 for my money is the scene where Tony ignores Jarvis’ calculations that he cannot save everyone on air force one, and by improvising is able to do so anyway. It’s a non-consequential scene but does everything to remind us for all his faults Tony has moved on from being an industrialist who protects only his own property and has embraced being a hero and resists what is easy in order to try to save human life.
This is an ensemble piece but essentially the movie could be called “Star Lord” as we his is the only back story that we begin to explore. The others who join him have their motivations (and his motivation spreads to them too) but the heart of their mission is simply his desire to be a good guy……and hopefully a famous one at that.
3) So what else? Humour, obviously. However, there’s a caveat with this one. Based on the marketing, I think some are going into the film expecting a broad comedy. Instead, it’s more a case of a film that is creative and doesn’t always have to take itself too seriously. There’s not so much a bunch of hilarious jokes so much as a world that seems fun, colourful and unpredictable…..exactly like comic books you might say. Rocket’s joke about demanding prosthetics truthfully isn’t guffawingly funny. In fact, like so much else in the movie (Rocket’s troubled sense of self, Drax’s family, genocide and revenge in general) it’s kind of dark. This isn’t a comedy, it’s just a film that remembers what the Expendables forgot – the “golden age” action movies could be heavy and dangerous but they can be fun too. The characters can surprise you and make you smile.
4) The funny thing about a movie about a team of misfits is how much it reminds me of playing a tabletop role-playing game (if you’re not following me, thing Dungeons and Dragons with no board and more talking). These games succeed or fail as to how well they achieve the idea that
 each member is an individual and there are no blind followers or filler (quick, name all the dwarves from the Hobbit for an example of why that’s important)
 each person has a reason for wanting roughly the same goal that the rest of team wants (remember those two brothers in that shitty Clash of the Titans film who show up, help the hero, then say “but we can’t follow you into the underworld” are the zenith of team members lacking any motivation. Of course, you won’t remember them because it was a completely forgettable film unless it made you angry).
Number  makes sure you actually care about each person but number  means that their alliance is plausible and that even if there are rivalries, they won’t stop every three seconds to try to kill each other and take their stuff. Guardians does this very well and you’re never left wondering why any of the characters are there or the subtle differences in their motivations. Being so colourful and varied, you never forget who is who, which is also an achievement because rather than having clearly defined goals (archer, swordsman, wizard, for example), they are all pretty much soldiers who shoot guns and hit people. Hey, they paired 4 of the same class with an Ent and it still came off as an enjoyable, well written team!